October 21st, 2010
01:50 PM ET

NPR cans Juan Williams, stirs up blogosphere, Twitterati

Many have run to analyst Juan Williams' defense, but some feel NPR was right to can him.

NPR has fired Juan Williams over remarks he made on "The O'Reilly Factor" this week, and there is no shortage of opinions on the analyst's ouster.

Many have jumped to his defense and others have applauded NPR's stand, while a few have expressed concern about the recent firings of journalists who made remarks deemed insensitive or inappropriate. One observer compares the editing of the Williams clip to the video of Shirley Sherrod, which saw the U.S. Department of Agriculture employee fired before her remarks were put into context.

NPR CEO Vivian Schiller said his remarks were inconsistent with NPR's editorial standards and practices and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.

NPR's ethics code provides some insight into the firing: "In appearing on TV or other media including electronic Web-based forums, NPR journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist. They should not participate in shows electronic forums, or blogs that encourage punditry and speculation rather than fact-based analysis."

To recap, Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly faced heat last week after remarks he made about Muslims on "The View." He was discussing those comments with Williams on "The O'Reilly Factor" when Williams made the remarks NPR found objectionable.

"I mean, look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country," Williams said. "But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they're identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."

Here is a roundup of reactions from blogs, columns and tweets around the nation:

Sarah Palin: "NPR defends 1st Amendment Right, but will fire u if u exercise it. Juan Williams: u got taste of Left's hypocrisy, they screwed up firing you"

Slate's William Saletan: "Three months ago, right-wingers clipped a video of [Shirley] Sherrod to make her look like a racist. They circulated the video on the Internet, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture fired her. Now it's happening again. This time, left-wingers have done the editing. They clipped a video of Juan Williams, a commentator for Fox News and NPR, to make him look like an anti-Muslim bigot."

Jeffrey Goldberg, national correspondent for The Atlantic: "There's a larger trend here, the increasing tempo of journalist firings around the issues of Islam, terrorism, and Israel. There is Helen Thomas, of course, as well as Octavia Nasr, who was fired by CNN for praising the radical Shi'a Ayatollah Fadlallah. Helen Thomas is a ridiculous figure, and her comments touched on the Shoah, so I think my position on her firing remains, good riddance, but Nasr's firing seemed unjustified to me, and Williams's removal, so far at least, seems unjustified as well."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jay Bookman: His denials of bigotry aside, Williams’ remarks this week validated a stereotype of all Muslims as terrorists just as a similar comment about black people — 'When I get on a bus, if I see black people, I get worried, I get nervous' — validates a perception about black people as criminals. There is no qualitative difference between the two stances. A very small percentage of black people are criminals, and a much much smaller percentage of Muslims are terrorists. But once you start defining the much larger group by the activities of that much smaller subset, you start down a very bad road. NPR, in other words, acted appropriately."

Forbes' Conor Friedersdorf: "I don’t think that Mr. Williams should be fired by NPR, or that it’s good practice in general to fire people based on a single remark, however offensive. (There are exceptions. This isn’t one of them.) I say this as someone who is glad that there is a strong social stigma against bigotry. There is an upside to this stigma that is under-appreciated: it signals to some people that bigotry is wrong, even if they don’t quite understand why."

Mike Huckabee: "NPR has discredited itself as a forum for free speech and a protection of the First Amendment rights of all and has solidified itself as the purveyor of politically correct pabulum and protector of views that lean left."

NPR media reporter David Folkenflick: "Williams also warned Fox host Bill O'Reilly agst blaming all Muslims for 'extremists,' saying Christians shouldn't be blamed for Tim McVeigh"

Salon's Glenn Greenwald: "If we're going to fire or otherwise punish people for expressing Prohibited Ideas against various groups, it's long overdue that those standards be applied equally to anti-Muslim animus, now easily one of the most - if not the single most - pervasive, tolerated and dangerous forms of blatant bigotry in America."

Council on American-Islamic Relations' National Executive Director Nihad Awad: "Such irresponsible and inflammatory comments would not be tolerated if they targeted any other racial, ethnic or religious minority, and they should not pass without action by NPR."

Think Progress: "... [Williams'] kind of thinking is exactly what digs the hole that is America’s fight against terrorism deeper by letting the enemy define the terms of the struggle ..."

Jacob Heilbrunn, author and Huffington Post contributor: He said there "should be taboos when it comes to public discourse. Some taboos are necessary and even vital. Yes, trash-talking about Muslims has become dangerously prevalent. But firing Williams only feeds those sentiments. The honorable thing would have been for Williams to apologize and for NPR to have moved on. Now it's created a furor and turned Williams into a martyr. Williams will survive his firing. The real loser isn't Williams, but NPR."

Editor William Kristol of The Weekly Standard: "Do the powers-that-be at NPR think Juan Williams is a bigot? Do they think a traveler who has a reaction (fair or unfair) like the one Juan describes, in our age of terror in the name of Islam, is a bigot? Of course the powers-that-be at NPR know he's not. In fact, I suspect the powers-that-be at NPR pretty much think what Juan thinks. But the standards of political correctness must be maintained. Pressure groups speaking for allegedly offended Muslims must be propitiated. And so Juan had to go."

Big Journalism's P.J. Salvatore: "A taxpaying-funded organization fired someone over their free speech? No! Shocker! ... Can we stop pretending that this is serious radio and pull their public funding already?"

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Filed under: Civil Rights • Islam • Sarah Palin • Twitter
soundoff (764 Responses)
  1. Jeff in Columbus

    After this move by NPR, lets dispense with the silly notion that liberals care about "free speech". They don't. Liberals – especially Barack Obama – actively seek to restrict any viewpoints or discussions which are not in alignment with their ideology.

    Americans – take note. If you are not a liberal, your speech WILL be restricted by liberal Presidents such as Barack Obama and liberal organizations such as NPR. They will not tolerate your beliefs or opinions if they run in contrast to the liberal ideology.

    This is just one example of many (Obama actively seeking to eliminate FoxNews) where liberals actively seek to eliminate individuals and organizations who do not share their beliefs.

    It'd be funny if it wasn't so downright scary.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • cmkc

      Give me a break – anytime anyone during the Bush Administration said anything bordering on critical – they were deemed unpatriotic or uniformed. Free speech is the casualty of BOTH parties who both seek to be on the moral highground when in reality, they are both in the corporate gutter.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brent

      They only like free speech if you are "freely" agreeing with their agenda and their re-engineering of the country.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alright...

      ... cmk mentioned Bush...Lets all take a drink!!

      October 21, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  2. I agree

    Sorry but when I'm flying if I see a person in Muslim grub my first thought is the same: "I hope they don't blow my plane up." Is it stereotyping...heck yeah, but that is reality. You see a strange white kid with a long trench coat and black eyeliner and you think: "that is they type of kid that could shoot the school up." You see a black guy with his pants hanging down to his knees on the street, you think: "I hope he doesn't mug me." Does that make a racist bigot? Maybe. Sorry but stereotypes exist for a reason.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Thomas

    ("if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they're identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.") I don't see the issue myself, if that's how HE feels. He was not offering an opinion and pontificating. He was telling his personal feelings of a personal experience. Think Mr. Williams might have a good case against NPR for their intolerance and lack of concern for his personal feelings and fears. NPR is not who I'd expect to stifle someones First Amendment Rights, but we live a country that values business and corporate rights over our own. NPR has asserted that they have a greater right to take advantage of the First Amendment than Mr. Williams does. Amazing dichotomy here, not to mention the irony.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jay

    What else would you expect under the presidency of our muslim president Barrack Hussein Obama?

    October 21, 2010 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • GG

      Like I said...we're all ignorant...some more than others...

      October 21, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • JZ

      What kind of nutjob seriously thinks Obama is Muslim? His former Christian pastor of 20 years was big news for months!

      That being said, it was unacceptable to fire Williams for making a comment about his feelings – no, he didn't espouse those feelings as a mantra or ideology, he meekly admitted to them. Again, the PC fascists control the left and even though they're perfectly willing to denegrate Christians systematically, God forbid you even mention Muslims. Buh bye, 1st ammendment rights unless you comply with the PC nazis.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • @JZ

      To answer your question about 30% of the country think Obama is Muslim. Over 50% think he is not Christian. Personally I don't much care. He will be a lame duck prez soon anyway, then gone in 2 years.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Caral from SoCal

    I don't listen to Bill O'Reilly, but happened to be visiting my father-in-law the night this particular discussion was on...so I saw the WHOLE discussion. This little clip of what Juan Williams said is being taken so far out of context it isn't even credible. Juan stated that not all muslims are responsible for terrorism, that only a small group are a problem, said that not all Christians should be blamed for terrorism just because Timothy McVeigh is a white Christian...he made his point. AND, he admitted what I imagine passes through a lot of our minds, "When I'm on a plane, and I see a man in robes and a turban come in...a muslim in traditional garb...the thought passes through my head." Well, yeah. It passes through mine too, but that does not mean we don't smile, greet the person and try to get over ourselves. Bad move, NPR. Very bad move.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. GG

    Wow, I love how everyone made this a partisan debate. I watched that episode of O'reilly the other night and I was kinda taken back by what Juan had said. I think anybody who works for any kind of press making such a racially-charged, generalized statement should be fired but yet Beck still has his job after claiming Obama hates white people, Ed on MSNBC still has his job after claiming the Tea Party is all racism. So I don't think this has anything to do with liberal or conservative because it's pathetic that the media has gone in that direction and still claims to be "fair and balanced". I think it's a sign that we as a nation are not a post-racial society and every time a racial comment is subtly or not so subtly made by A LOT of popular journalist on either station...it shows that left or right, we're all still ignorant.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Seabiscuit

    Bravo for NPR
    ifSenor Juan signed a contract as such, he certainly was in the wrong. Absolutely wrong!

    And another thing, I am livid that Sarah Palin immediately got on her high horse and blasted NPR over this with yet another one of her lame brain tweets.

    Who annointed SP in the first place. Fox and Palin do not play by the rules. They want it all whether right or wrong. Rules are rules., people

    I listen to the Diane Rheem show every morning. Believe me, her guests a thousand times over are mainly conservatives.

    Again, bravo for NPR for firing Mr Williams.
    Let us stick to sanity, people. Señor Juan deserved this and more.

    If sr. Juan signed a contract with NPR not to

    October 21, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brent

      Right. . . .and this is the same sham bunch of Libdogs whose staff openly touted a wish of George Bush dying of Aids and of various sickenesses/bad fortunes occuring to conservative talk show hosts. Where was your outrage then?? Too busy reading Mao's Little Red Book?

      October 21, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • jakirk2010

      Hey Seabiscuit,
      So you subscribe to censorship? NPR does receive (some) government funding, so when they accept taxpayer money, they should be open to ANY opinions... The fact that they are practicing censorship shows where your tax dollars are going...

      October 21, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Vanilla Gorilla

    remember free speech? Anyone reasonable American seeing someone dressed in Muslim garb on a plane should be concerned – follow the logic here. All terrorists are Muslim (based on 9/11) but not all Muslims are terrorists ...... so until the Muslim world takes a stand against radical Islam and it's brand of terror and hatred all Muslims should be suspect. How do we sort out the good ones from the bad ones? They can't – or won't do it. Are we going to have another 9/11 like event because we don't want to hurt someones feelings?? The inmates are running the asylum.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Caral from SoCal

      Venn diagrams – they must not be teaching those anymore.
      They were tossed out with common sense, as political correctness edged it out the door.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve

      Wow. "All terrorists are Muslim"... obviously NOT true. Therefore your whole line of logic is faulty. The very definition of "terrorist" is ambiguous at best. "The use of fear and terror as a tool to influence policy." Well, that one doesn't fly or else most of the Right Wing in America would be classified as terrorists. "The threat of violence to coerce a population." Well, that one doesn't fly or else riot police would be classified as terrorists. "The killing of innocent civilians in pursuit of a political goal." No dice there, either, or the U.S. military would be terrorists. So I'd say this, all Muslim Terrorists are Muslim... but that is an obvious tautology. The truth is ALMOST ALL MUSLIMS ARE NOT TERRORISTS. And that MUSLIM TERRORISTS LOOK LIKE NORMAL CITIZENRY WHEN IN ACTION. Therefore the whole point is that Juan was openly admitting his own personal bias – knowingly – which is a violation of his contract since he was doing so in the media. Defending him as right only points out the rampant irrationality that pervades today's fear-ridden climate in this country. I choose FREEDOM over FEAR and that means that neither the Right nor the Left will be determining my decisions for me – whether I agree with them or not.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • b0bc4t

      Firstly, he didn't say anyone seeing a man in Muslim garb should be concerned or frightened. He said, "When I see someone in Muslim garb, .... I feel frightened." He might have said, "When I walk into a dark room, I feel nervous, until I can find the light switch" or "When I go camping in the woods at night, the animal noises unsettle me" and still be employable, but we have gotten so sensitive not to inflame each other, that we might as well not speak for fear of an implied slight against ....ANYONE! We have the G word, the L word, the N word, and the J word, and we can't seem to get any message across that is not reinterpreted as HATE! We box ourselves into corners, rather than stand and speak out in the light of day to WORK OUT OUR DIFFERENCES! (Yes, we need to yell this message, capitals intended.)

      October 21, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ray

    There is no such thing as Muslim terrorist as no one can be a Muslim and terrorist at the same time.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brent

      Really? Tell that to 11 who would disagree with you while they drove the planes on the way to murdering 3000+ fellow citizens. Also, ask the victims how they feel about that statement. 72 ugly STD-infested non-virgins to you.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • DanW

      LOL...Mohammad was the first Muslim terrorist. You should read up on what he did to people who stood in his way.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  10. slag

    Like Juan with Muslims, when the lifeguard tells me there are sharks in the water, I don't wade in to see what type they are.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Teresa

    So he said what we all think. Good for him! Enough with this PC crap!

    October 21, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  12. steve

    Stated and admitted bias is bias. I find it interesting that the quoted conservatives are blasting the so-called "left" for having integrity while constantly eroding their own integrity in the process. It seems that to some life is more about promoting beliefs that support one's own illusions, prejudices, and bigotry, than it is about being open to exploring and determining the self-evident truths that make life worth living for many of us. I say that NPR is keeping its side of the street clean – it might help all of us if their self-appointed "opponents" did the same.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • slag

      So you think Juan should be fired for stating the obvious......how stupid is that?

      October 21, 2010 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mr.T

    If NPR wasn't happy about the content of the comments, it should have censored them before they aired. That's the job of an editor, after all. I suspect there are deeper underlying reasons for Mr. Williams' firing.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brent

      Absolutely. Absolutely. Sig Heil.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jobi Robson

    I am a 50 yr. old white male, Who, Has studied radio communications, and Worked in the industry for a number of Years. I have been Listening to NPR for nearly 30 years, Until today!!!, I will Never again let My dial touch The station again, Nor turn it on for My customers @ My Place of Employment. I Know Mr. Williams Will land on His feet, hopefully, @ Fox News Or CNN........

    October 21, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brent

      One of the best posts today. Give you +1. Now, if we could just find a way to extract the Libdogs' hands out of our back pockets so we would not have to also pay for this megaphone for the hating left.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • APox

      Haha really, a guy says that he is scared of all Muslims because of the actions of terrorists and you find nprs actions unreasonable? What if he said "well I'm no bigot but everytimr I'm around a black person I get scared and nervous because you never know!"

      You can't see the foolishness in these statements? Go to fox news and Pamela geller, you'll get along with the hate mongers.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Tom

    So Juan if I said every time I see a black on a plane I get a little nervous that would be OK with you.

    October 21, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Tom, that is just plain racist. How many African Americans flew airplanes into buildings? How many African Americans kill women and children because of religion?

      October 21, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • jake

      actually he is hispanic. He is from Panama. El es Panameno.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susan

      John, well how many blacks committ crimes????????????? So it's okay to insult a Muslim, but not an African American?

      October 21, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Well....

      If the shoe fits!

      October 21, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • veggiedude

      It is true. There have been studies made where if one sees blacks coming down the street, the person will clutch their handbag more tightly or cross the street out of fear. This is no different than that.

      October 21, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • APox

      Based on the number of terrorists that claim Muslim allegiance there is ONE terrorist for every 150,000 to 300,000 practicing Muslims. That fear is not overblown?

      It's just as foolish as believing all black people are evil robbers/rapists. Just pure bigotry.

      October 21, 2010 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
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